At 5:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Mar. 24, Kimberley Search and Rescue responded to a call for assistance from the Kimberley RCMP detachment in order to help locate and evacuate a stranded person in the back country near White Swan.
SAR mobilized their air and ground teams, flying out their Avalanche Safety Officer, a medical team member and a member of the RCMP in a Big Horn helicopter.
They landed once the Avalanche Safety Officer had deemed the area safe for ground travel and approved a safe landing spot.
A further eight Kimberley winter team members responded by snowmobile. The stranded person was evacuated from the area in the helicopter and was returned home “healthy and in good spirits,” according to a SAR press release.
“Kimberley Search and Rescue would like to give a shout out to the member of the public who had the foresight to report this stranded individual to the RCMP by dialing 911,” SAR said. “Thank you.”
Kimberley SAR manager Peter Reid told the Bulletin that he recently saw an important comment from community-based volunteer search and rescue team North Star Rescue, saying how SAR teams are able to respond to situations in avalanche terrain only after getting that Avalanche Safety Officer approval.
“And some terrain we’re just not going to be able to go into, so that means that might delay a rescue so that when people, even though they’ve called SAR, they know SAR is on the way, it may stop us from going in for a couple of days,” Reid explained. “So they need to be able to shelter in place.”
It is critical to recognize that SAR can’t always get to you right away, which serves as a potent reminder for everyone who enjoys travelling in the backcountry, even if you do so in a vehicle to make sure you take the necessary precautions.
SAR asks that those doing so always create a trip plan and leave it with a responsible member of their family or a friend. You should always pack the essentials such as sleeping bags, extra food and water, candles and fire starters.
Also, though spring has arrived, you need to carry the necessary equipment for avalanche safety: a probe, shovel and a transceiver, and if travelling in avalanche terrain you should have avalanche training.
In this particular case, Reid said SAR wasn’t exactly sure how this individual got up where he did, but what they were thinking is that he drove up in the early morning when the road was frozen and hard, so then on his way out, the road had softened and his vehicle got so stuck that he couldn’t get out.
“People need to be super aware that conditions are changing on a fairly regular basis,” Reid said, adding this individual wasn’t overly familiar with the area he picked to go for a drive in. The other likely contributing factor to his getting stuck was that the road he went down hadn’t yet been plowed, whereas the road he actually intended to drive would have been.
The other important detail from this incident was that the individual was reluctant to ask for help because he was under the impression he would have to foot the bill.
“We just really need to reinforce the idea that we don’t charge for rescue across Canada,” Reid said. “And what we really need people, if they have the ability to contact, just tell us that they need help, or their family members to not hold back on asking for help.”
This is of utter importance, because in this case Kimberley RCMP got the call soon enough and made the decision to activate SAR soon enough that they were able to put a helicopter in the air, allowing them to clear the area.
Had the call come in later they wouldn’t have been able to go in there that night, as their Avalanche Safety Officer wouldn’t have been able to ensure the safety of the area and rescue efforts would have been delayed until the following morning.